3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Sunday 27 April 1919 – Anzac Day service, put flowers on Phil Prime’s grave

Cairo
Sunday 27 April 1919

Dear Ruth

Sunday afternoon here so must be about 10 o’clock at Port Road, Beverley. Nearly time to go to bed.

For dinner we have had macaroni, cold meat, spuds and beetroot and some pudding with raisins in it. Went to the Methodie church this morning. The Presbyterians start at 10.45 and I found I was running a bit late for them so went the other way.

Before brek 4 of us went up to Esbekich Gardens for a swim. It was good too, not crowded like it usually is in the afternoons. We were there yesterday afternoon – could scarcely move for fellows in the water. We’ve been several times for this early morning swim. Good Friday and last Sunday for instance. Other days it’s not easily done because the baths don’t open until 7 and we start work at 8 o’clock.

Several of A Squadron chaps have been in from the barrage on leave this week. I’ve seen something of them – Perce Mitchell was down, also Hopcraft another of our old section. A good many of the old hands from several Regiments have been down for Anzac Day last Friday. There was a service in the morning in All Saints Church, then the Anzacs were entertained for dinner at the Australian Soldiers Club – same institution that gave me this paper.

AnzacDay1919

In the afternoon there was a meeting at the Anzac Hostel at which General Allenby presided and said a few words. Also there was a solo, bible reading, prayer and address by a chaplain. The band played Dead March and buglers sounded the Last Post and the gathering dispersed. A whole lot of wreaths had been made and these were loaded into motor lorries outside the Anzac and a lot of cars and Red Cross ambulances were waiting to take anyone out to the military cemetery. A whole lot of nurses had been in nearly all day making the wreaths, Also some civvie ladies assisted by a few soldiers who happened along.

CemeteryCairo
Military cemetery, Cairo

I was down there changing a book at the library before dinner on Friday and one of the sisters came out and conscripted 4 of us to help tie green stuff on the hoops, two 7th Regiment chaps and a Newzie [NZ] beside me. So we hopped in the motors and went out to the cemetery and helped distribute the flowers. I took one to Phil Prime‘s grave. He is about the only one whose grave I know though there are others of our chaps buried there.

I’m going to give this letter to Sgt Armstrong to post either on the boat or in Aussie. He is going on pay work on the Dorset taking hospital patients and compassionate leave men and leaves here tomorrow morning. Arnie has been one of my room mates ever since we came to Corner House. He was to have gone with us on the 3rd regiment staff though it is from the 4th Brigade Ambulance and his home is Sydney. I’m giving him our address and if the old bus calls at Adelaide he will probably come and say ‘Sieda’ to you.

George Potter is going on this boat on compassionate leave. His father died a few months ago and since then his elder brother. George was in the old 23/3 you know and one of the best of them too. He may sing out at Bev some day too if we don’t chase after the Dorset pretty quickly. There are rumours going about that demobilisation is going to recommence very shortly but however that may be I’m not going to kid myself again until we are well out in the Red Sea.

I’m sorry I missed keeping that appointment for Easter Monday. It would have been a good risk if we had got away at our original date 21 March though perhaps quarantine would have kept us back on arrival. Mother said in her letter that she hoped we would have decent conditions for the voyage. Don’t worry, I am on the staff as the song says and good accommodation is always provided for the pay staff, besides which there will be a sergeants mess and you know how these beastly sergeants swank it – haw haw. Good bunk (maybe a cabin) good mongeree [food], everything quiessketir [good].

I don’t think your last letter had come when I wrote to Father. It came by itself later than the rest. Also 2 days ago my birthday cake arrived safe and sound. First go off we had some morning lunch on it and ate almonds and raisins and then our room had supper at night – quiessketir – and I’ve still got a small piece left. The tin had got a bit bent but the cake was undamaged and tasted bonz – beats me how it keeps all that time without getting dry and stale but it does keep until we get a glimpse of it and not much after.

Perhaps those raisins were some of ours which you had been drying after Mr Trott’s instructions. Maleesh. Better luck next time. You evidently had a good time at McLaren Vale. Glad Mrs Trott is better though I must confess I never heard she had been ill. Hope your tennis pupils at school have won a match or 2. I suppose it will be hockey again directly. Anyway I’ll come and barrack for Blackwood at least for one match before the season is over.

Glad to hear that old Dora is alright again. Tell her hooroo from me and we will play our singles at tennis next season. I’ll take a year to get into form – won’t be able to catch a game from Stan Hartley. I’ve been arguing about starting to play here but all the time we think we are likely to pack up and it stops a fellow from settling down to anything. Does Ted Black ever play tennis now I wonder?

Alex Young was dead stiff being sent back to Germany after thinking he was coming home. I suppose Jeff Hartley will be about the last man to leave seeing that he has to teach the chaps their ABCs. Perhaps he will finish up by marrying a Fritz bint [woman] and settling down on a sausage farm in Hunland.

I’m jolly glad those last 3 Cooees [magazines] got home. That makes the complete set. They’ll be interesting to show a man’s young nieces and nephews in the coming days. Sorry to hear about Mr Rowe being ill. Evidently he was still alright when Stell wrote cos she said nothing of it. She sent a couple of photos taken out in the paddock. Len and Mr Elbourne mongering up by a stook of hay and Mr Rowe on the binder. Three nice shining horses, a decent looking crop and stooks & scattered sheaves etc – just the thing.

I must write and ask Wilf and Hurt if they have had letters etc. Haven’t heard from them for several weeks. Hurt sent me a bit of cheek for my birthday and I think I heard from Mrs Harry and Jean Gilmore just about that time so I counted these as birthday presents. I didn’t feel the bump when the transfer into the senile decay class came through. Everything is the same to me now you see. Sometimes I just sits and spits and thinks, other times I just sits and spits.

Well – square the dink, I’m about done for news, No I forgot – we went to Romance last night at the Kursaal. Some ripper good plays on now by the same crowd who played Peg o’ my Heart and The Man who Stayed at Home. But we can never go unless we get special pass until 11 o’clock cos since the war we are supposed to be in by 9pm and only 10% are allowed late passes each night. I’m glad we got ’em for last night tho cos we had such a bonzar night. Haven’t been to the pictures lately.

Read ‘Glorious Deeds of Australians in the Great War’ last week. It’s not bad – an account of doings up to date of evacuation of Gallipoli. I’ve got Kipling’s ‘From Sea to Sea’ now but haven’t started reading it yet. I’m going to be on guard every other day now for a week so will have plenty of time for reading. Think I’ll send a few stray letters going too – I thought I’d quite finished that game but I owe a few now.

I told Mack over a month ago not to send any more letters here and haven’t revoked the order in my later letters to her but I hope she won’t take any notice of my instructions but probably she will cos I was so confoundedly sure. I’m jolly glad you’ve not stopped writing from home. A man would go mad here without letters, marry a Gyppo or something as stupid.

The desert is better than civilisation dangled before your nose – yet out of reach. A fellow is about half dead now anyway – I’m not just roaring – it’s a fact – and still I say maleesh [never mind] – which proves my statement.

With that cheerful ending I’ll whistle adieu.

Hip hip

Spence

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3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Sunday 20 April 1919 – demobilisation suspended, good horses shot

Y Emma
Esbekich Gardens
Sunday 20 April 1919

Dear Father

Seeing that I wrote my last letter home nearly 6 weeks ago you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear again so soon. Probably news of the Gyppo ‘war’ has reached Australia and if so you’ll know ‘ere this that we’re hung up so to speak. We actually got within 2 days of sailing when all demobilisation was temporarily and indefinitely suspended. Course we liked that I don’t think but ever since we have thought that the embargo would be lifted and that we would go any day, but a second war occurred a fortnight ago so now there’s still nothing any good about getting away.

I gave my last letter (to Sal) to one of the 1 Regiment chaps to post either on the boat or in Aussie and they left on the 13 March so you should have that letter by now. I’m rather a long long week trailing behind it. I’m still hopeful though cos things are pretty quiet everywhere now and the permanent army of occupation is being formed and brought here as quickly as possible. Some troops arrived from England last week I believe. I am still working at Headquarters unfortunately. Work is pretty slack there now. Our hours are from 8 to 12.30 and 5 to 7 daily except Saturdays when we only work in the morning and Sunday work has been cut out altogether.

The Regiment came down to Kantara and were camped right on the canal ready to embark but last week they caught a job. A & B Squadrons are out doing guard etc about the barrage while C Squadron and headquarters are camped just close to Cairo at Gezireh Kit Stores and doing duty as required in and about the town, mostly bridge pickets and guards. I’ve been out there and have seen Les Williams, Jack Hardwicke and some of the other fellows. Also had Lance Neville staying at corner house for 2 days. He was in Cairo on duty and went back to the squadron this morning.

We were saying yesterday as we drove around a bit that it was exactly 2 years by the date since our first flying visit to Cairo. We went to the museum as Lance had never been before and were well entertained by an old dinkum guide for 2 hours as he told us about everything and everybody who roosts there from Moses time up to date.

On Friday being a holiday 3 of us from Corner House decided to walk to the pyramids. We did too except for a 2 mile motor lorry ride. Got there and had dinner at a restaurant then proceeded to climb Cheops – that’s the big feller with a bit knocked off the top. Bill Bunker had his camera and took a few snapshots of us up top. The stones a way up are just as big as those at the bottom – about 3 feet x 3 feet x 4 feet and some even bigger. Some are smaller of course. We decided that to get them up there the old Gyps must have built up sand hill all round the pyramid as it was building and then rolled the boulders into position and then cleared the sand from the sides and left the pyramid standing.

TopOfCheops
Spencer (above) & friend at the top of the Great Pyramid of Cheops

We felt like a cup of tea by the time we got down to the bottom again so had it with sandwiches and then started out on the 10 miles back to Cairo. By the time we reached Giza, 3 miles from here, we could catch a gharry [horse drawn cart] so we did and arrived home feeling not too bad at all at quarter to 6 just in nice time for a bath and dinner. Usually there’s a tram service to Mena , but that’s an institution that’s still non est since the Gyppo war and that’s why we had to walk. Motors cannot be hired because the petrol is short and we didn’t want a gharry all day. It would have cost us nearly 1 pound and as the weather was just right we reckoned the walk would do us just fine.

It’s just getting on for hay and harvest time here you know. All along the Mena Road there are crops either of vegetable or barley or lucerne. Some jolly good looking patches of barley well out in ear. There are fruit gardens too and vineyards here and there but the summer fruits won’t be in for  couple of months yet. From the top of the pyramid you can look back to Cairo on this edge of the delta while the pyramids are on the other side and looking up and down following the course of the Nile there is the fertile green strip a few miles wide with desert sand on each side stretching away put of sight.

This morning, Easter Sunday, I went to the Presbyterian church. I’ve been there several times lately. They had a communion service at the close set out in real old style. Minister with a deacon at either hand to take around the bread. It’s the first time I’ve seen a service that way since leaving home so it seemed alright.

In the field at our occasional communion services the padre always used to do everything with such conveniences as might be obtained. Two nurses came out just after me from church this morning, one Aussie and one Tommy and we walked up the street yarning. Finished up at their invitation, I went and had dinner with them and a nurses sort-of-club house, and stayed for a bit after.

The Australia sister comes from NSW and knew Grace Thompson and also knows Grace’s hubby. Her name is Moore and she was at the 31st  at the time I was in hospital. She had charge of the ward where Phil Prime was so ill and died. The Tommy sister is called Stokes, born in Kent, home now in Surrey, so since my name was like Kent and my Grandpa came from Surrey she and I are good cobbers and we parted with the hope of meeting again.

It’s quite a treat to speak to a woman though a man feels a bit of a goat in their company. You’d never believe how stupid and awkward I feel a week or 2 ago in Groppi’s [cafe]. A nurse saw my colours and came up and spoke. She wanted to know some news of the Regiment, when we were going home etc. I suppose I answered her, I dunno, but there you are that’s me and I’m pretty much out of from. Still ‘maleesh’ as the Gyppos say – we’ll soon be home again getting told how to talk and behave ourselves generally. Job for Lic as my instructor and corrector.

It’s half past 5 and I’m off for dinner now so will finish this later.

Monday afternoon

Sure I must have known something in writing yesterday. We had been looking for letters for bout 6 weeks more or less and this am they came. I had 9 envelopes. That means about 20 letters from home numbered from 199 to 206 and 2 later ones dated about March 16 without numbers. Also a letter from Donie, Stella Rowe and Miss Ashton. I kind of feel too full for words. It was bonz to have all the news and the latest pretty recent too. When I started about Dorc’s illness I wondered if the rotten flu has paid us a visit. Glad it was nothing as serious as that. Strange too that Lic should follow suit. I hope they are both OK now. Bad luck about old Brownie [horse] dying – I wonder if she had the flu.

You told me about lots of things that I’ve not time to mention now but I’ll post this letter and follow up with one to someone else very shortly. About Uncle Ted being down and calf market meeting and meeting Len Rowe there, Mr & Mrs Rowe’s visit, Lic’s new school, Charlie Teague‘s and Norm Ford‘s return, mother meeting Major Dick and Mrs Hogarth and others. There seems to be plenty to keep you all pretty busy.

It must have been good to get all Mack’s letters after a long wait to say nothing of Miss who was it? Miss Thompson or Barker or somebody who told you all about her arrival in India. I had a letter from Mack a few days ago dated 21 March 1919. She had been out camping, riding bikes and frightening old stodgy bullocks in wagons out of their usual calm and still enjoying things generally.

I expect you’ll be sure to see something of Dr Mead and family when they arrive home. They are much missed in India no doubt. Mack won’t be so very long after me in getting home if I don’t look out a bit. I must come home soon or I’ll scarcely see Dorcie before she clears out – & if I can’t work it any other way (ie the Regiment doesn’t get along soon) I’ll get sick again and come home as a hospital patient. Archie Blue is home by now I suppose. He left he as a malaria patient and lots of others are going that way. I wish now that I hadn’t missed writing all this time. You’ll be looking for letters which won’t come but I didn’t want to start writing again, thought I was coming myself.

This will be a bit late for both your and mother’s birthdays but perhaps just before they occur I’ll send a cable saying coming home and then you’ll be happy. I’m glad those letters of mine and photos and Cooees [magazines] arrived safely and were enjoyed I didn’t expect answers to any letter I’ve written in Cairo at least when I came down.

I’ve not asked Les Williams how my photos on horse back turned out. I’ll see him again though in a few days and find out. I hope it’s alright for old Starlight’s sake. I’d sooner have had one of Jinny that way but still I have another photo with her in it so must be satisfied. It is a photo of the original horses of the Regiment which were still going last December and though Jinny is in the back row there is no mistaking her old head, well up in the air as usual. And little Tommy, Perce Mitchell‘s pony next to her.

I reckon that memorial to war horses is a good idea and I’m glad you sent along something on account of Brownie. She was worth it. Possibly if she hadn’t been killed she would have at length fallen into the hands of some greasy Gyppo to be driven around in a gharry so she’s better off dead. Our old horses were taken away just after I came down here from Raffa and after being kept at Moascar for some time were again issued out to the Brigades who have been remounted on account of this Gyppo trouble so Jinny and Tommy and Ginger and Achmad are probably doing duty once more on the sands of Egypt under a new rider. I hope they are being well treated anyway. All except the real good and sound horses were shot – I reckon the whole lot deserve a decent ending after long and faithful service under all sorts of conditions, good and bad, as you know, and it would be better to shoot them all rather than sell them to the gyppos.

A good number of the Tommy horses are now running in the gharries in Cairo and they certainly look better than the little weedy ponies generally drive, but the Gyps don’t deserve to drive a decent animal. The old army mules are also conspicuous here in the water sprinklers and street cleaning wagons.

Well I’ll continue another day, here for one envelope. It’s great to get  a heap of letters. They are just as much wanted as they used to be. I’ll be wirelessing some Happy Returns for you and mother on the 16th and 20th of next month. That’s the only way to reach you in time or by cable.

Love to all of you from Spence

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Monday 3 March 1919 – on pay job at Hdqtrs, rumours of sailing for home

Latest yarn that 1st Brigade men to sail next Sunday ~ pay staff can apply for England leave ~ might go to bed for a month [after returning home] if it’s winter ~ fancy soldiers over here without horses, rifles, saddlery, mess tins ~ all they do at Rafa now is physical jerks then footie or please yourselves

Monday 3 March 1919

Dear Mother

I posted a letter to Dorc about 10 days ago & to Lic last Wednesday I think, but I must have a bit more yarn before getting on the boat.

The latest red hot yarn we hear tonight is that 1000 men of 1st Brigade are to sail per ‘Canberra’ about next Sunday – 1st & 2nd Regiments are named – as usual I don’t know how much truth there is in it. But I certainly believe that we shan’t be long. The Flying Corps & ‘odds’ are going on Wednesday per Port Sydney – perhaps this letter will catch that boat – & then the 1st Brigade is next to go if anything is true in this wicked world.

We ‘specially attached’ members of pay staff were today given an opportunity to apply here for England leave. Having already handed in my name through the Regiment I did not apply. I’m not mad enough on the trip to apply twice, so I’ll win or lose with the fellows up the line. I’m not expecting much to get it somehow & in some ways I’m hoping it won’t be granted to me – but if it is I’ll go gladly too & have a bonzar time – you bet – & probably it would hinder my homecoming by not more than two months which isn’t much in such a big war.

So if I do go, you’ll let me off won’t you? Think of the bonzar time I’ll be having – I’ll call on Wit in London & Jeff H in France – visit Miss Norman & Mrs Carter if I still have their addresses, besides going to bonny Scotland & falling in love with a ‘lassie’ – & then I’ll catch the same boat home as old Eckee & we’ll play at skipping & ping pong all the way so as to be in good form for rushing round when we lob.

I don’t know whether I won’t go to bed for a month though if it’s winter – sleep the cold weather out & wake up next 1st September for Dorc’s birthday & the spring. I’m not going back to WA to work this year at any rate if ever I start work at all that is. I’ll give the Comikal the ‘boot’ before I leave home for the first six months at least, (I wonder what a fella will do for a crust anyway?)

Did I tell Lic that Ken Gilmour is now down here on this pay job – with others from the 4th Brigade? Also have met a chap from the 9th called Koenicke – or some such – he is a nephew of old Miss Koenicke of the picture shop & Flinders Street Baptist Church. Not sure if I ever told you who came down beside me from our Regiment – Sgt Major Morton – a Tasmanian – & from C Squadron is the other ‘non sufficient’ officer, while the officers are Captain Kenyon, B Squadron & Lt Hamilton. Mort reckons he is a cert for a trip to England – if so I guess Hdqtrs staff will supply us with another worker for the voyage – we will have a fair bit to do for at least a part of the trip – work that cannot be done until after the men leave here – but we won’t strain our hearts at it.

I notice that some of my letters lately are bearing 1½d stamps – but none I think from you at home: what’s the reason for that? I believe I’ve heard some yarn about postage having been raised but I’m not sure. One thing I won’t be writing to many Gyppo cobras after I leave here so it won’t break me.

Our Regimental footie team arrived down here yesterday – I saw some of the chaps & spent some time with Blue Crase. Fancy soldiers over here without horses – without rifles – saddlery – even mess tins were taken away & all our Brigade is armed with is a striped belt per man! Bonz fun if Jacko came round the corner now eh? We would have to carry ammunition fro the fellows in other brigades who still have their gear. All they do at Rafa now is physical jerks early in the morning – a bit of marching drill during the morning – then nothing ’cept footie or please themselves. Some attend classes & schools of various kinds – but do no other parades.

Just thought tonight that when you said that my parcel had arrived you said nothing about finding the 2 or 3 Turkish notes inside – hope you did all the same. You did not say how Mr Ritchie is in health – leg off & so on – so I s’pose he’s pretty right. Hope Norm Ford arrived safe & well as expected.

Hope Fins Park has succeeded in finding a regular minister – I should think Mr Adcock would be alright for awhile at any rate. You can get Mr Norwood when he comes home.

So it was Aunt Flo’s cake that I couldn’t identify – well! Never once crossed my mind that it would be hers – cos it came ahead of the letter I think – & the letter said – ‘going to send’. Anyway it was bonz & my only grief was that it looked so good I was afraid to tackle it at the time; but some of the other chaps enjoyed it & I gave my little Irish nurse a piece to ‘sticky’ her fingers with.

I hope you saw Major Dick when he arrived. I wonder if you’ll have noticed Mr Macdonald’s name too – later on a bit. I don’t know that you’d call him specially brilliant as an officer – but I reckon he was jolly decent all the time he was with our troop: plenty of sense – for instance when getting ready for the last stunt he made particular enquiries as to how we were starting out with tucker etc – advising us to carry what we could of meat paste, milk & such like canteen stuff. Not so much need to tell us that perhaps – but he specially wanted to know how we were off for tea & sugar. Any old soldier knows that tea keeps him alive & so Mr Mac saw that we were able to fill our tea bags.

Yes please keep some of that apricot jam – I won’t be long – but I’m going well for missing the grapes again – still never mind, I will have some next summer. That vine out the side must have grown wonderfully – I’d forgotten all about that old shack I put up for Salome – those old posts must have been good solid timber to still be standing. S’pose those young fig trees too are getting a decent size now. Glad to know Uncle Harry Tuck is better & hope the improvement stuck.

Dickens of a noise going on here now – piano & singing so I think I’ll stop. I hope more letters wil come soon – can’t have too many. Hope you’re getting mine too – I heard from Wit the other day. He expected shortly to go to AIF Headquarters, London to do pay work – similar job to mine I guess. Wouldn’t it be a lark if we should lob home about the same time – both as pay Sergeants. I guess Wit has told you how the war finished soon enough for him to slip on his commission but he’s not worrying.

No news in this but I’ll send it going just to say Good Day – I’m feeling good.

So Good night.

Love to all from Spence

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Monday 24 February 1919 – sights of Cairo, possibility of England leave

Met up with Hurt & Pete & Melv McCord down from Moascar on leave ~went out to see Pyramids &  Sphinx ~ not going back to WA to work this year ~ up at Rafa the horses and all spare gear have been taken away ~ put in for England leave ~ fed up on yarns of going this month so things are mightily unsettled

AIF Headquarters, Cairo
Monday 24 February 1919

Dear Lic

Not much doing this afternoon so I’m going to say ‘Howdye’? I’ll just tell you a few items of events which have happened during the last few days.

On Friday last I had 2 letters, 1 from Donie of 2nd January & one from Dorc dated 7th. It looked like the beginning of a new mail but no more letters have arrived yet tho I’m sure there were some others sent from home; perhaps they’ve gone up the line! Dorc was telling of a weekend spent with Minnie Clark – but she didn’t mention whether you had passed the Junior or not. S’pose she wasn’t allowed by you – & no doubt all the news about it will be in your epistle when it comes – the results must have been out by that date.

Well on Saturday morning I was just walking up the steps of our building coming to work when two youths came into view – ’urtle Pete & Melv McCord – they had come down from Moascar on 48 hours leave. I hadn’t time to yarn much then but arranged to meet them immediately after dinner.

We met & soon hopped on a car for the Pyramids & had a gawk at the old Sphinx and his temple & the pyramids including the usual donkey ride etc – then we rode back as far as the zoo – had a look round & some tea & cakes & were turned out at shut up time. Back to Corner House for tea & then Mac went to bed (they stayed at Anzac Hotel quite close by) & Hurt & I went to the Kursaal & laughed at ‘Charlie’s Aunt’ til about 10.45 o’clock – supper – yarned for about 2 hours & then we sneaked to our beds.

I had applied & been granted Sunday morning off so we met again yesterday morning & went to see my old friend the Sultan Hassan Mosque – the Citadel & Mohomet Ali Mosque, bazaars etc – ate fruit (bananas, oranges & cocoanuts) – dinner – then to the museum to see the mummies & co, round about & back to Esbekich Gardens for a short swim – water pretty cold in the baths – then a good tea in the YM – bread & butter & sandwiches & cakes – & down to the Cairo Station before six – where the bhoys had to catch their train.

Time had gone very quickly but it was tip top & a little bit while Hurt was here. It was just like old times – come to light in a strange place to be knocking about with one of the Noodles – I wish we had had more time, But I enjoyed what we had. I saw the train off for Moascar & Hurt & I are going to meet again soon – in South Australia!

That picnic Dorc was warning us for is right on – tell her: we’ll all be there – rain or fair & with a big appletite too so look out.

Don’t know anything but it’s just within the bounds of possibility that I might be taking a little jaunt first all the same – who knows? I don’t. Fact is I saw Capt Bigg from A Squadron & was asking him about things in general up at Rafa: the horses and all spare gear have been taken away so our Regiment is no longer ‘dinkie die Light Horse’ – which is a good sign too, cos it means that all is ready for a quick move for home.

Also I asked ‘Johnnie’ about the England leave & I told him if it wasn’t too late to put in my name for a chance with the crowd who want to go. He said he would do so – so there you are! Of course only a small number can go – about 10% of troops here I think so it’s only a chance & I don’t know how the winners will be selected so I’m not banking on it & if I don’t go I’ll be perhaps better pleased cos I’ll come home sooner, but I thought I’d be a goat not to allow myself a chance of there should be one. Am I cracked or not? I want to get home & I don’t know whether I want to go to England or not. Perhaps later on if I didn’t put in I’d wish I had done so – but square the dink: if they put me on a boat for home I wouldn’t care a ‘tuppence’ about missing the other – anyway now I don’t know much about which may happen. I suppose if England leave comes off it will be sometime pretty soon – & if it’s ‘home’ that ought to happen in the first half of March.

We were fed up on the yarns of going this month – but it’s nearly the end of February now & nothing definite is known to us – so things are mightily unsettled – to say the least of it.

Wednesday night

Your ‘Lickle’ bonzar mail in properly at last & seven letters for me today. I wish I could tell you how bonz your ‘lickie’ letters are – I wish I could keep them always but unfortunately soldiers’ portmanteaux are of very limited capacity – still never mind; you were writing out in your hammock under the trellis – I wish I could just hop up & do what you ask to ‘come home’ – & it was only last night I was telling you my scheme for staying away longer!

I’m a very disappointing sort of brother to have eh? You scarcely know me cos I haven’t been at home to speak of for 7 years & before that you were nearly a baby & well this England leave is only a month long so if I do get it please let me go & I’ll try to be very good when I get home. It’s a mix up isn’t it? Father said a few letters ago ‘Go if you have a chance’ & then I didn’t think I’d have any chance – now after I’ve put in I believe you’d all sooner I shouldn’t go – on a/c of sickness & all & all.

I’m not growling – only exploding a bit – I hardly know what to do myself. I want most at present to be home but my idiotic reason says ‘You’d be a goat not to have a trip if you can get it’ so there you have it. Cheer up on the sick account anyway. I’m not going to be ill or any such thing – don’t worry. I’m feeling pretty fit now – only want some work or tennis to be in real good form. When I came down here first the change on to ‘good’ soft food didn’t seem to suit me – but I’ve overcome all signs of shying at food & now eat all & anything that’s given me.

I’m thinking that you at home might be more liable to be dodging those influenza germs than I: please don’t have them in SA or Adelaide or old Kilkenny – whatever happens. According to cable reports there had been a bad outbreak in Vic & NSW. Well let’s cut out these things that are not facts & see what we’ve got to say about other things.

Hooray – you had a late letter from me. I hope the others turned up after: & the little tin box of tricks got safely to its home! I was glad to hear that. Bad luck – I never imagined that inkwell as a flower vase: lack of imagination you see- still you & Ruth soon got on the right tack.

Glad you like the clock & the ‘God mit the Huns’ belt. I think the Germans were a bit like the Turks in some ways – carrying buckles like that with the motto on. You know when old Jacko made an attack you could hear quite plainly beside the rifle fire etc his chant of Allah Allah Allah – as he came running in: but Allah went back on them a few times – or else they went back on him, cos they didn’t always win. They reckoned that if they were shot while crying the name of Allah that they were righto for the next world – if it is so there are several Jackos in heaven already!

Good luck – you didn’t do too badly in the Junior after all – & you passed your music exam – so that’s square up to date. I hope the Tormore House plan has come off & that you like it – I’m sure you will. New tennis net – good again – that saved you working long hours to make one in holidays as you had intended. I hope Donie will enjoy a few games over it in its new position: no doubt she will too. Sounds alright to listen to your ‘splashes’ in the briny too. You must be getting an expert swimmer now. I’m out of of form in that fun at present.

Peggy [cat] is still quite well & happy despite the loss of her family – is she? There’s a playful little tabby & white kit living here at Corner House but I haven’t made a close acquaintance with it – or washed its face yet. Eh which box is Ruth filling with the ‘carpets’ & dish mats & things? The chest or the big box in your room or the piano case?

I’ve lots more I want to just yap about but I think I’ll close up on this lot & perhaps write again to Mother tomorrow or the next night – do Goodnight Lickelomie.

Love always from your wandering old ‘grizzly’ Spence.

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Saturday 25 January 1919 – good to hear about the Armistice rejoicings

Letters from all at home written about 4 December ~ good fun to hear all about the rejoicings ~ Captain Starlight quite well as usual ~ weighed ourselves this week-11 stone 3 lbs ~ been to Heliopolis this afternoon for a look and a tram ride ~ went to see Charlie Chaplin at the pictures and to the skating rink

 

Cairo
Saturday 25 January 1919
Dear Father

Yesterday bought me a ‘bit of alright’ in the shape of letters from all of you at home written about 4 December and one each from Miss Ashton and Mack the last dated 28 December [1918] so that was quite recent. One of Dorc’s was written on 17 November before she knew her results and just after the news of the Armistice had reached you.

[Censoring of letters is cut out now]

No doubt you must all have become well and properly excited over the good news. I guessed so before but it was good fun to hear all about the rejoicings and noises and crowds etc on the news getting out. I could just hear the hooters and whistles going and growing louder after Lic rushed in with her certain ‘war’s over’. Hooray Lickie – less than 6 months I hope and believe will see me home again.

I’ve been having a good look at our new flag too. That’s not too bad at all. I hope the joyful wind and peace air won’t have altogether wagged it off the pole before I get there to say good day to it.

Glad to know you have had letters from Mack. Also the cable which I sent. I guessed it would arrive on the day that your previous letters were posted. Two days isn’t bad going. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to send a cable when we leave here or not. But I dare say you’ll get wind of the sort of fish that the sea will chuck up at one date or another.

I mentioned Stew Malcolm in my letter to mother last Saturday. Well the following day, Sunday afternoon, I went out to the hospital and saw him and several other of our old troop mates. You may possibly see Molly sometime. He was to sail the next day, Monday, so he will be ahead of this letter. More men are going in a few days and one who may go soon is Walter Semmens of whom I have spoken before from Beetaloo way you know, and a grandson of old Mr Wakeham’s. He said he would try and look you up if he is anytime in town when he arrives. He’s a jolly decent little chap and keen soldier, but he’s had the rotten luck to miss several stunts through illness. Two other who are going any day are Bob Lucas [RP Lucas] of the Semaphore and our troop and Cpl Billy Jervois of Woodville B Squadron. The latter came over at the same time as Fred Hollis. Most fellows who are going from here are malaria men but most of course are decently well again now and probably will be as fit as any when they get off the boat at the other end.

Jerry Phillips is the chap whom Donie met. I guess he is a lucky man to be home again as well as he is. I remember one day at Marakeb beach before B’Sheba scrap we were swimming in a pretty rough sea and Jerry and another chap were carried away out beyond the breakers and we couldn’t get out to them with a line so just had to leave it to their luck to get in. They did eventually by floating and drifting up the beach the way the sea was running but they were absolutely out to it as soon as they touched land. Another time Jerry was wounded with a shell case I think. Marked it with his arm and we heard that the limb was as good as off, but I believe he still carried it with him practically OK.

Glad to hear that Tom Rosser is getting on a bit better with his clipped wing. It’s very decent of him to visit you every now and again and I’m sure his tales of soldiering days must be most interesting. All the better for me when I come home – I can forget it all straight away.

So you’ve gone in for a sheaved stack this year – good. Our little farm is surely good country to produce the crops it does each year. Uncle Ted’s won’t be too bad after all of his 8 or 9 bushels goes through as an average. You were asking about Captain Starlight. He was quite well as usual when I left him last week. It was a lucky fluke that just the day I left I had his photo taken with his rider across his back.

Les Williams wanted to have his own horse taken and asked me to click the camera for him, then he took me. I don’t know how it will turn out. Anyway he old nag is pretty ugly and hairy at present. Still I’m glad we snapped him. Bob Bell is going to have Jinny taken before the horses are taken away and he will let me have some photos of her.

I’ve had a photo taken since coming down here – went with Norm Hughes of our troop Kapunda SA to the pyramids last Sunday morning and we sat on camels like Lance Neville and I did nearly 2 years ago. When you get this one you’ll be able to calculate how long it will be before the sphinx and pyramids crumble away. Also the soldier who appears in both. We weighed ourselves one day this week. Norm went just under 11 stone and I went 3 lbs over so we’re not showing much sign of fading away just yet. Guess it’s the heaviest I’ve been for some month or longer.

I don’t think that trip to England is for me. Haven’t heard yet of any soldiers going from here except a few old hands and officers. I guess it would be good if the chance occurred and I’d take it even if it delayed my homecoming for a few weeks, but it’s most improbable and I’m not thinking of it in the least. No doubt we Gyppos would notice the cold a bit but some of our regiments who are up north are amongst plenty of rain and cold and snow even here.

Two chaps in the same room as I am upstairs come from the 4th Brigade and they have told me of their snowy doing up beyond Beyrout [Beirut] in The Lebanon mountains and showed photos of snow etc. They have the horses in proper stables up there and rugged as well so they are protected fairly well from the weather. I guess Wilf Rowe has seen some of this sort of thing. We were stiff coots not going up there alright but never mind, the war’s over so nobody cares a hang where we have been or not been now.

One of the above room mates of mine says that Ken Gilmour is still up there and going strong. This chap belongs to the 4th Brigade MG [machine gun] Squadron though not to Ken’s troop. I’ve heard recently that Roy Dyer and Fred Hollis are alright. You see there are about 3 chaps from each regiment down here on this job of ours. That’s how I’ve heard the news. I asked about Nip Smith but the 11th fellows don’t know him well but reckon he’s alright.

Haven’t run across tracks of Ern Jarvis yet at all. I was talking just now to Bob Murrell, one of our old Two Wells footy team. He is down on 2 weeks leave and is well. I met Charlie his brother in Moascar a few weeks ago. Think I mentioned that my last mail 2 weeks ago brought a card from Will and May Jarvis. I think a lot of these letters will wait now until I return for an answer. Never wrote so few since I came away as during the last few weeks and now my work is indoors, it’s not likely I’ll catch up any. We have to go to work tomorrow morning from 9 to 12 but will be free in the afternoon.

Last Sunday evening I went to All Saint’s Church of England to the service. I don’t know who the preacher was but I liked him and we had some good hymns. Finished up with The Day Thou Gavest Lord. I reckon that hymn must be known just about all over the world – it ought to be anyway.

I sent one of my pyramid photos and a song and letter to Mack last night. The song was called ‘Down the Vale’ – I haven’t heard her say anything of it so I guess she hasn’t had it. Mack said in her letter that Meads had just had a cable to tell them of Col Wilson‘s death – early in December. That’s terribly hard for Mr and Mrs Wilson. Col was not over strong and quite young but he was so keen to go to war. He must have arrived too late but illness must have got him even then. It seems worse now the war is over.

Well it’s bed time. My watch is ticking away merrily on my wrist once more and it says 10.20pm so I’ll go up to sleep. We’ve been looking around the town quietly during the week. This stay will give us a chance to know Cairo pretty well but I doubt if there’s much new that I could tell you. Things aren’t as arresting or interesting as they were 2 years ago. I’ve been out to Heliopolis this afternoon for a look and a tram ride. Several of us went to see Charlie Chaplin and co at the pictures and another night to the skating rink, I was going to have a buster or two but the fellows reckon the floor and the skates weren’t up to much so I didn’t put the skates on. Tennis is played but Saturday afternoons would be my only time for a game so I guess it will keep until I come home. I’ve written a scrap to Dorc besides this – must send something to the BA [Bachelor of Arts] lady.

So here’s a finish to this so goodbye the noo. You’ll be about getting up now – Sunday morning at home.

Spence


Saturday 25 January 1919
Cairo

Good day Miss Dorc G Kentish BA – what! what! And how do you find yourself this evening?

I was pleased to hear the dinkum oil about your exams and no doubt about it. Hope the commission rests easily on your soul. No doubt the Sam Brown [gown] will fit you finely. You see I heard of it all yesterday when some letters came for a small boy about my size. I’d have liked to have been at the commem on the suspicious occasion of the coronation.

What a lark if Licko has passed the Junior after all despite her word that 4 subs are absolute and outside limit. Doesn’t matter now, it’s all over anyway Lick so cheer up.

Good for Miss Willsmore too. Rises coming out all round.

It was on the same day as your glory that I was attacked with the news of my paying stripe though it dated back to 7 December which was the day I lobbed out at Reshon after the malaria stunt so I enjoyed a small reflection of your success even at this distance. My stripes still cling together alright and quite possible will do so until we get home.

Nothing but sickness or slackness in performance of duty (?) is likely to interfere and I guess we can cut out sickness too. Course I don’t know about the other – time will tell.

Anyway I’m satisfied that Billy Gill‘s verdict (given just after we hit Moascar first) is not far out. He reckoned that a Corporal is the best paid man in the army. Certainly I should hand mine all back by rights – it’s so easily picked up and I won’t say earned. But then again if they must throw it away they may as well throw it at me as at any other body so I’ll stick to it.

As I’m not writing to you this time but to Father I’ll turn off.

So long.

Spence.

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Sunday 12 January 1919 – inspection by General Cox, in my own humpy

Brig Gen Cox inspected the Regiment-saddles cleaned, irons & bits polished ~ concert in the Y Emma-some good songs sung ~ humpy of my own here-best place going when it’s wet ~ feeling fit again & picking up condition ~ Miss Ashton writing from Boulder said at the armistice people went mad & paraded the streets singing hymns & patriotic songs until 3.30am

Sunday 12 January 1919

Dear Lic

B’lieve there’s a mail coming in – Hooray. So I’ll get in early & start to answer it now: we’ve been over 4 weeks since last letters came so should get a good issue this time. Won’t it be rotten if it’s only a rumour & there’s no mail after all? My last letter was to Dorc, posted in a green envelope!

Nothing of much note has happened during the last week: yesterday our Brig. General Cox inspected the Regiment & of course we had everything clean & bright & shiny for him. Saddles cleaned, irons & bits polished like a new threepenny bit & bandoliers, belts, boots, leggings & spurs a sight to dazzle the eyes.

The day of Kiwi has come again since the big war & our gear is now pretty clean at any time. Which polish used to be the best for spurs – you know when you used to shine up mine? Petrol was pretty good wasn’t it – but you always reckoned Brasso was better. Well when I was in Cairo I had my spurs nickelled so now I don’t need to use either to keep them shiny – but I do use Brasso to shine up the brass buckles & rings on my bridle & saddle.

Last Wednesday night there was a divisional concert in the Y Emma. Some good songs were sung and one chap recited two pieces in tip top style . (Les Williams is singing now one song which was sung ‘Shipmate O’mine’ – a bonzar: Les is in the next bivvy to mine – so we can go to bed & knock on the walls so to speak & talk ad lib). At the concert, Major General Chaytor who commands the Anzac Mounted Division presented the prizes to the successful competitors in the sports held yesterday week over near Rafa station.

I have a humpy of my own here – best place going when it’s wet as it was last night – or when the wind blows coldly – as it’s doing outside now. I was in with Fred Nunn next door (Fred is one of our section) but the Sergeants were provided with a tent to sleep in – so when Bluey Crase vacated this humpy I slipped in & now Fred & I have a humpy each. It’s much better – more room to turn over in bed for instance without knocking the side walls & letting in the rain.

I was thinking how snug it was last night as I came in to bed. The rain outside made me think of some nights nearly a year ago when we were climbing about the Mountains of Moab & it was cold & it was raining & we had no humpies & we had wet blankets & probably outposts to do during the night – whew – so after all we are pretty well off nowadays.

The weather is fine again this morning – it doesn’t rain a great deal here, but my word it’s cool enough to make us eat like lions & tigers. We always eat up our issue – bread – jam – meat etc & make up the necessary on canteen fruit, butter, biscuits & so on. I’m feeling fit again now & guess I’m picking up in condition: no weighing machines out here so I don’t know my weight.

S’pose you are all at Fins [Finsbury Park Baptist Church] by now at evening church parade. It’s about 11am here. No services today except RC [Roman Catholic] in our Regiment. We had a nice service last Sunday morning conducted by Trooper Norman, a chap in the Brigade Ambulance section. I think he was a minister before coming over here. Time to feed the horses & get ready for dinner – so I’ll knock off & continue my letter when your letters get here.

So hooroo – Spence

Tuesday [14 January 1919]

Good Day Lic – had some letters yesterday! Want some more now too. These were only those dated 8th November & one I had from Donie was dated 28th November & so are other letters round about so where are mine? Coming I hope – but all the same those that came were goodo.

Heard also from Mack (dated December 13th) after her return from convention & meeting with Hal, Ess & baby Margaret. What bonz fun they had I guess. She reckons she felt homesick after they parted & Marj Mead didn’t know what to do with no Margaret to nurse. Perhaps before you get this you’ll have seen the Meads.

How did Peggy & the kits get on with their French exam? Bonz little photo of you & Norton Summit tower. I’ll send you one of myself in return but you’ll have to pick me out of the crowd – can you? The other photo was taken on the track down from Richon – but I’m not in it. The chap nearest the camera is ‘Soldier’ Rodgers – my twin corporal – & he is standing next on my left in the other snap.

Hip Hip – I gues Dorc has passed her zams & now wears a cap & gown & wise aspect. I don’t know anything but Donie says something in her letter about my clever sister so I’m hooraying in advance of definite information. Mind you did as well yourself! Mother asked if I knew George Kinnear. I do slightly – tho he had left A Squadron before I joined it. He has some job at Brigade Headquarters. Was down with malaria recently & came out from Moascar on same day as I did early last month. Don’t think he would know me by name.

That Heitman whom Mother asked about a few more weeks ago was in A Squadron for a short time & then went batman for the padre & has since gone away sick. He is a very poor skinny little boy – don’t know how he ever passed for soldiering.

What a pity some of you couldn’t go up & see Mother march. It must have been alright. Mrs Rymill wrote about it to Archie Blue & also sent a cutting from the paper, which has showed me today. Lance Neville was here too – telling me that on the night the news of the armistice reached Balak[lava] – Jean & Harold F [Frayne – cousins] hopped in the motor & sped out to his (Nev’s) home with the good news. I dare say they drove out to Holmesdale afterwards.

Miss Ashton, writing from Boulder, was very delighted & said that people generally went mad & paraded the streets singing hymns & patriotic songs until 3.30am. She herself admits to staying out till 1am. Mr Wellington was addressing a monster crowd in one of the Kalgoorlie picture theatres & Miss A reckons he has as much fire & go in his speeches as ever. He can certainly preach or lecture & speak well or better than average parsons & is a marvel at his age – about 67 or 68.

What a rotten lot of hoodlums there must be in the tramway employ: we haven’t altogether got the strength of the recent strike yet cos no papers are here – but by what we can make out it wants the 3LH on AS [Active Service] in Adelaide: it would give me some pleasure to help or try to tip out a few of those strikers ‘on their necks’ as Hurt would say: pity the coots don’t go to Germany & live & stop there. Don’t s’pose you’re interested in strikes tho so it’s not much good me rousing. Don’t think I’ve any more news so I’ll post this & write again soon if those other letters turn up as I hope.

Beside Ruth’s, Dorc’s & Mother’s letters I heard from Donie, Miss Ashton, Will Jarvis & Ickle Jan & Mack so that wasn’t a bad little bundle.

Have a choc? I’ve some here, got ’em at Y Emma the other night: biscuits too – quiessketir [good].

Well well sieda [sa’iida – happy] bint [girl]

Love from your walled [? slang] Spence

Hip Hip – Ruth’s taken to slavvyin’ as well as school marmin’, Getting quite an extensive aduction at Mrs Hind’s school- 1st kidwhacking, 2nd sports mistress, 3rd general slavvy & 4th Out at lunch with the family at the Chine – I beg his parding – the Mikado Tea Rooms – bet it’s not as good a joint as my little ‘Wattle Tea Rooms’ in St Georges Terrace.

Hooray Mrs Tommy all correct & coming home tomorrow – good old Lena – what about a kick of the footie? Jes so, jes so Dorc. 3LH leading round Buckingham Palace – I s’pose – but I have not yet been notified of my reserved cabin for the trip. I’ll write & get Billy Hughes to see George about it & he can let me know. Got the tennis court ready have you? Good!

Well – fineesh.

Hooroo & Good Day to ye all.

War’s over – did you say?

Bad luck.

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Thursday 5 December 1918 – out with the troops & horses again, sunny days

Moving on from 1/2 way house ~ out with the troops & horses & bivvies is the best home ~ visited Hurt’s dining saloon & ate ‘stoo’ with him-had our photo taken ~ this old place is much as it used to be with more conveniences & comforts for soldiers ~ picture show runs most nights ~ parcel from Aunt Annie – cake, milk, sauce, tea, shug ~ no rain, cold nights, fresh mornings, sunny days

Thursday 5 December 1918

It’s a week today since I wrote to Lic – I was then in Cairo & now I’m on the eve of again moving on from this ‘1/2 way house’, so I’m lucky & happy, cos seems to me that out with the old troop & horses & bivvies is the best home over here.

I’ll be able to tell you how Jinny is doing in my next letter perhaps – tho of course I don’t expect to have her to ride because as far as I know old Bob Bell is still out there. I’ll get her physog taken tho all the same.

The best event of the week was the meeting with this noodle Pete. I think it was last Saturday night I took a walk & found him safe & well tho some of his mates have had some trouble with influenza & are isolated therefore. I’ve been twice since then to see him & once he was on a bit of a picket of guard so we sat down by the fence like good soldiers & I helped him pass away a couple of hours.

Yesterday I visited Hurt’s dining saloon & ate ‘stoo’ with him thereby doing some poor beggar out of the pleasure of a second cut. We had our photo taken – perhaps you’ll hear of that in a month or so from Hurt himself if they are any good. Course I gleaned a bit of home news from Hurt too which was a bit of all right seeing that it was later by a few days than my last letters & also being carried per living link I was permitted to ask questions & get answers see? But we haven’t half started yet worse luck so I must write Hurt a note tonight & let him know of my flight (into orange land I expect).

Hurtle Rowe (behind) & Spencer Kentish

Wilf had already gone out before my arrival here last Friday. This old place is much as it used to be – not very interesting but there are a few more conveniences and comforts for soldiers. Now there are about four tuck shops – very decent ones too – besides canteens of course: & the Y Emma had a fine new large substantial building – central hall for concerts etc – left side a fine comfie reading & writing room where I am now, also a library from which I borrowed one of Scott’s books ‘Quentin Durward’ & read it during the past week. On the right side there is the usual buffet where tea, cakes & cool drinks & oranges may be bought at certain hours & always during the evening.

The old picture show still runs on most nights – but I’ve not been at all. I went to a song service in the adjoining hall to this last Sunday night, & the most comf. possie I could find was a lounge affair along the side with cushions on it & all. The hymns sounded very nice – sung by the fellows gathered, & I remember the chap having a bible reading & then there was to be an address – I guess it happened alright but couldn’t be sure cos when I woke up it was about 9 o’clock & nearly all the soldiers had gone home to bunk. So I reckoned I had a good snooze & sneaked off to have another between the blankets.

I’m feeling tip top & a little bit & am setting out well equipped (in case of rain or cold) with a new overcoat, bivvie sheet, ground sheet & cape in one, good uniform & boots, so I ought to be able to find a Merry Xmas. Les Williams, Arch Blue & Lance Neville have all gone out again.

Got a parcel today from Aunt Annie – good one too – cake, milk, sauce, tea, shug, socks, hanks & so on: note wishing me a good time in the demolishing thereof was enclosed by Dorothy Smith.

Now I have a few of your recent letters here – I’ll just see what I was going to ‘write home about’. I had a great day reading my big mail a week ago today & like you I’m always looking for the next – not half greedy but I like a lot. Glad you met Tom Rosser & enjoyed his visit. I reckon he is a jolly decent sort of chap. Well – you laughed at my dream – bad luck – good. But I’ve had another some weeks ago – & just the other day I had proof of its fulfilment – Wit as an officer appeared to me one night – certainly in clerical work as I met him, & now he tells me he is at an officers’ school near London & expected to finish about end of November. How’s that? Good luck to him. He’s just got in in time to enjoy a few comforts for home coming which will be good no doubt. Glad to see by that news item that Keith Lock’s wound was slight – of course I knew nothing of it before.

Glad the Jeroos views arrived safely. Hope Sal’s parcel & the Cooees also got along later. I posted another two Cooees from AIF Headquarters beore going on leave to Alex. Not sure that I mentioned them before. Hope to hear soon that Dora is better – rotten luck for her to be ill again. Everybody was telling me how well she had grown lately. Glad Mrs Tommy was getting on OK. My best respects to the leddy when you see her. Good Day Tommy.

Forgot to mention that I saw Mel McCord up there with Hurt the other night – from Two Wells – Wilf’s brother-in-law. His brother Don has been over here for years you know. Those photos Ruth enclosed were A1 – one especially taken on the Blackwood hockey ground & showing the old big gums in the background.

Ruth looks pretty fit & the hockey team doesn’t look downhearted even though they weren’t at the top of the pole this year. Mack’s photo is pretty good I think: reminds me in some lights of that photos of Aunt Flo taken when she was married – or else of the original herself – dunno. Hope the pad with Dorc’s will come safely – stamps or no stamps. I’ve seen the smiling chile by the kindness of Hurt & she doesn’t look too bad for all her stoo stoo stoo.

Here’s a finish up – it’s getting late & I must be up & doing in the morning. Lovely weather here, no rain of course but cold nights, fresh mornings & sunny days, I feel better for my weeks sojourn & I’ll soon be up to top form again when I’ve eaten a few cases of our dinkum old oranges.

Can’t think of any more just now to write about so Good Day the night & love to you all.

From Spence

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Tuesday 26 November 1918 – on leave in Alexandria & Cairo

On leave in Alexandria & Cairo ~ had a few bonzar swims ~ been to see the Catacombs & Pompey’s Pillar ~ been out for a sail in a small boat on the harbour ~ soldiers are provided with 3rd Class dog boxes in which to travel ~ we make ourselves comfortable in 2nd Class ~ took a trip out to the old rotten 31st [hospital] to see my 2 nice nurses ~ place is quite empty compared with when I was there ~ went to see ‘The Gay Parisienne’ at the Kursaal

Tuesday 26 November 1918

Dear Lic,

New brand of writing paper again you see. But it’s not not a new address for me [Alexandria Union Jack Club, 32a Nabi Daniel Street]– I’m going to have dinner here directly so am filling in time in writing part of the letter I owe you. Cliff Jenkin & I are going for a swim this afternoon, my last here. Cos I’ll be off to Cairo by 8.30 train in the morning.

My last letter home was written to Dorc & also a backsheesh one to the same chile both over a week ago when I was staying at the Windsor. I left there on Wednesday last & since have been living at the United Services Welfare Home – or some such title. It’s pretty handy to the sea & city & yet cheap so I’ve still a few ‘bob’ to call my own.

I’ve had a few bonzar swims – go out for a fine tram ride about 7 or 8 miles with the sea on one side & some jolly good houses & public parks on the other. The end of the journey is City Beach – or ‘Sidi Bishi’ as the trams call it, & it’s only 5 minutes walk to the best place going for a swim. I put in a whole day out there once – had a book with me tho but we usually do it in half a day.

I’ve been to see the Catacombs & Pompey’s Pillar (ask Dorc if she has ever seen ’em in those old Greek books), also to the Museum & War trophies exhibition: the latter is interesting – cos it contains lots of rubbish & things captured lately in Palestine – guns, rifles, aeroplanes (fair dinkum old Deutsch ones of course) & I don’t know whatnot. On two occasions I’ve been out for a sail in a small boat on the harbour.

Met an old friend out there too [ship] – name beginning with I – left Port Adelaide on a Saturday in November 1914. I wouldn’t mind risking another trip I know about on the same bus. Don’t get it into your head that I know about this trip either – except as a future event – same as the end of the war used to be. Perhaps by the time this gets home you’ll know that a good many of our men have returned to Aussie the 1914 pioneers. There are quite a number from our Squadron & at least two I think from No 3 Troop. Sergeant Johnson is one – I’ve told you about him before. I wish I’d asked him to go & say ‘Good Day’ to ye.

Another of my exciting adventures here has been a visit to the theatre on Saturday afternoon, when ‘The man who stayed at home’ was played: jolly good too. I’ve been to pictures several times – saw Wattle Day in Adelaide in the Australian Gazette one night – didn’t see Ruth there, but Mrs Galway & her hubby were present in the picture. Also there have been some interesting Palestine budgets & the usual Charlie Chaplins & ordinary old things. Heard a good lecture last night at the Y Emma dealing with the campaign on the Western Front – throughout the whole war.

On Sunday I went to the Presbyterian Church both morning & evening – Jenks accompanied me in the am. They have a good pipe organ & a chap who can play it pretty well. I’m going tonight to an organ recital in the church – ought to be pretty good I reck.

When Jenks came down from Cairo last Friday he brought me two letters from Mack: they were written during the voyage but the 2nd one was finished off after landing at Mr Somebody’s place in Calcutta – so I know the leddy didn’t get mined or torpedoed or shipwrecked. Evidently Mack enjoyed the sea trip & ship’s company very well after her ‘queer’ feeling of the first few days had worn off. No doubt she had given you all particulars of their fun & games. It must have been an early morning start at the Kentor ranch the Sunday morning the Gracchus sailed – guess you’ll be telling me in the letters which I’ll get soon (I hope) about you & Dorcie riding down on the bikes. By what Mack says I think you must have just returned the night before from Port Pirie – I’m not sure but time will tell.

Think I’ll leave this for a while – I want to read your last letters before I finish off & they are ½ mile away – so I’ll say ‘Good Morning Miss’ & go for dinner.

Here we are again! But now it’s Thursday eve & I’m in the YM writing room in Esbekich Gardens – you know what gay city that is. Well we had our swim allright on Tuesday afternoon & the organ recital was fair – not as good as Mr W at NA [North Adelaide] – then early to bed & early to rise. Made a made catch that 8.30 train with ½ hours to spare.

You know dirty common soldiers are specially honored by being provided with 3rd class dog boxes in which to travel (cept when they are just trucks) so we always pay 3rd class fare & as soon as the train trails out of the station & leaves the MPs [Military Police] behind we hop along & make ourselves as comfie as possible in good cushioned 2nd class cars. It’s a 4 hours express trip from Alex to Cairo so we just lobbed in time for dinner.

I drove in a gharry to the Metropole Hotel where I arranged to stay for the two days. I have only till tomorrow morning left & so must go somewhere tonight. Yesterday afternoon I took a trip out to the old rotten 31st to see my 2 nice nurses – specially one little Irish bonzar who used to get a few things a chap could eat whenever she could. I saw them & was told I was looking well – so that may interest the family. I am goodo now. I also saw a few of our ‘black & whites’ who still are in there, but the place is quite empty compared with its numbers of patients when I was there.

Last night I had the best laugh for 2 hours or more, that I’ve had for a long time. I went to see ‘The Gay Parisienne’ at the Kursaal – a good company – English – are there all this week & they are tip top. I may go again tonight to see ‘The Girl in the Taxi’. Last night the music & singing were real good – I’ve not heard a lady sing since I left home I s’pose – but I’ll bet one there last night & her songs would ‘bring down the house’ in many better places than this: she could sing. Then there was acting of course & antics by a runaway husband & a parlour maid – these two kept the whole audience in roars of laughter whenever they were on. I went home feeling much cheered up – you know – I wasn’t in the dumps before.

This morning after Brek I took a walk to our H Qtrs to see if any mail had come for me. I had heard of an Aussie mail being in so in I went – ‘Kentish’. ‘Oh’ ses ’e, ‘Are you the Lance Corporal? I don’t want to see you again for a fortnight’. He handed out – how many letters – I dunno – two different mails & I did score well no doubt. Nos 157 to 168 from home – all there good beside about a dozen others from Aunt Flo, Donie, Coz Flo, Elf, Mrs Aird, Finsbury Park SS Committee, Aunt Annie T & Clara & Mrs Harry, Dot McLennan, Maria Halliday & Miss Ashton. I think that’s about all & what a time I’ve had today reading them. It’s been my best day on leave – cos I’ve been home.

This afternoon I’ve been per gharry to the New Cairo British Cemetery where hundreds of our soldiers are buried. In fact there are very few other graves there as far as I could see. It’s away out away from the dust & noise of dirty Cairo – near the Nile – & is being well looked after. Many graves have marble slabs erected now – & all are marked by a wooden cross. I think this latter is part of the work of the Red Cross Society.

[no sign off]

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Friday 8 November 1918 – at Boulac Convalescent Depot, death of Stow

Posted a parcel with a few things I picked up ~ 4 parcels from home – one from somebody who can make bonzar cake ~ came just as my appetite was reappearing ~ left the rotten hospital & came to Boulac Convalescent Depot ~ never reckoned on things shifting as they have done in France ~ Red Cross trip to Helwan sulphur baths ~ church service-short of pianists so I played for the hymns ~ sleeping between sheets & in beds for 4 weeks ~ most of our chaps were worse than I was & quite a number have died ~ rotten coming home without Stow

Friday 8 November 1918

Dear Everybody

Before I start writing to Dorc I must make a few remarks: so here goes. I wrote from hospital to Father & Ruth beside which I posted a parcel addressed to Licko. Nothing very lovely in the tin – still I thought the thing interesting enough to pick up & carry. The belt came off a big fat Jacko who went to his happy hunting ground on the occasion of the Jacko-Fritz attack in July – see he was wearing the German buckle ‘God with us’: the other buckle with no belt is a Jacko as you can see by the crescent sign etc. Came from the same locality as the other.

The same day too I was out with a small party – with Colonel Bell & Major Dick & between the lot of us we found a good many Turkish notes: those in the tin are what I had left of my share – I’ve given some away – the small one is for 2½ piastres I think – two larger ones are £1 each & the biggest is a £2-10/-. I have been offered small prices for them in Jeroos & elsewhere by Jew dealers, but I reckoned they were worth keeping.

The Turkish sovereign which I found that day I’ve kep cos I didn’t like putting it in a parcel. The clock there is one which I got just after Beersheba scrap: we galloped into a station which the Turks had just left – they had set alight to everything that would burn but we poked about & picked up things including some of their brown bread & figs & all sorts of stuff until shriek – bang – bang & so on – he had fixed his guns a few miles further on & straightaway shelled the place he had left. Made us shift too for a bit – but he also made things very unpleasant for a crowd of his own soldiers who had just been taken prisoners & were being marched away.

Those pieces of glass are lamp hangings – off old lamps in Nebi Musa – or the Tomb of Moses – near which we were camped just before our first trip to the Jordan – the time we bridged it. The two china affairs I picked up just a week or two before I left the Regiment – at a station where we had a lot of cleaning up work to do. I think the round one was used as an inkwell – perhaps by the Jacko station master. I forget if there’s anything else in it. Anyhow I hope you’ll get it.

Don’t think I had had any mail or any such thing for weeks when I wrote to Ruth. Well all of a sudden four parcels came to light – one from home with custard powders, butter, shortbread, dates, raisins etc – must have been the Aunt Eva parcel by what I’ve heard since – velly nice too. I’ve had two custards up to date. Made ’em myself with some sugar & milk that came with dried fruit & other good things from Finsbury Park SS. Then there was one from Mrs Fred Hughes with apples whole & sound – & some cut up dried apple. Bonzar! The 4th was from the Horseshoe – & I’ll tell you later on what is in it – cos I brought it down here & haven’t opened it yet: making good things last.

The next day I was ‘donner’ struck to see 3 more – one from York Girls’ Knitting Club per Mrs Watson, with socks, Xmas pudding, cheese, butterscotch etc in it: one from somebody who can make a bonzar cake but I can’t even guess who sent it. There were some nuts & almonds on the top: good thing about these parcels was that they came just as my appetite was reappearing – so I was able to help eat & enjoy the contents of them. They would have been tip top to get out in the ‘big paddock’ but all the same they were very welcome visitors to the hospital.

I brought another parcel down here too – one that I’ve been looking for & that I thought might have gone astray in its wanderings – the one from home with Lic’s cake in – Hooray it did come & was all right too Licko. I’ve still got a piece for today’s lunch or supper & that will finish it.

Guess the blue & white socks were those Ruth said she was sending – I’ve got ’em on now – goodo – & the knicks also arrived in good condition – just the right size this time, the last were a bit big. So you see I had a desperate rush of parcels – but still no letters came.

On Sunday I left the rotten 31st [General Hospital]. Came here to [Boulac] convalescent depot which is a bit better. There was a bundle of letters waiting for me here – dated about August 25th – & two days ago another lot (September 12th) came back. Both lots had been up to the Regiment & back. I think another must have missed one No 146 – none seem to be missing – & I’ve now had up to 156 – also heard from Dora & Aunt Carrie, Uncle Bert, Uncle Arthur, Jean Gilmour, Mabel Walter, Myrt & Hendie Henderson & Miss Ashton.

Did I ever say that in that big mail I had about 5/6 weeks ago the photo of Sal taken at Henley Beach was duly discovered: it’s bonz I reckon – but goodness gracious – dearie me, what a chile! She has grown miles since that one Jeff took in our garden only 18 months or so ago. And in the last mail was another taken with the calf (with its head in the milk bucket) at Balak[lava] – not bad either – & a bit of Australian cow & country with it. And that just reminds me that I have a bit of a picture taken here the other day in which I’ll leave you to find my doleful countinghouse [countenance]. It’s a brown mug I’m holding in my hand – plate etc in the one you can’t see, just after dinner.

1pm at Boulac Convalescent Camp. Mail time – see the man by the pillar at the top with the bundle of letters – which he will distribute by calling the names & handing out as the owners answer
Detail – Spencer Kentish – top LH of photo

Father said ‘send a photo of self & Jinny’ – well I’ve never had one of the lady in all these years & now it’s possible I won’t see her bonz old face again – I’m a bit of an ass eh. Dorc – wot you tink? Never reckoned on things shifting as they have done lately in France & around that way but there it is. Ruth invited me home for Xmas & some fun & all that – wal I guess I’ll make it Easter & accept – fair dinkum – that’s not from Lloyd George or Kaiser Bill or any other ’edd – only my poor humble opinion.

That was a good yarn about the hockey finals too, Ruth – bad luck varsity’s got so well licked at the last. I dare say you did have a good time too at McLaren Vale amongst the hills & wattle & springtime not to mention people. Found your little sprig of fern & wattle alright.

So they gave Mack some farewells – & other things – did they? Bad luck – I wrote the other day & told her about it – but I forgot to wish her Many Happy Returns which I now do for Ruth. S’pose Ruth will now be elected to the Miss Kentish state.

These pages & pages get you don’t they. But I’m glad I have these pads as no other backsheesh paper is available here & cash is mighty short. They won’t let you draw much until you are discharged as well & fit. I sent a cable from Cairo Telegraph Office on Thursday afternoon stating ‘On leave, well etc’ which was not ’zactly the truth as you’ll read it. Cos although I was on leave for the aftie I’ve not got my dinkum leave yet, but that will come in a few days now most likely & I wanted to get the cable away.

I hope you may get it today if it has decent luck. I’m going in again this afternoon (Saturday now – I started this yesterday) – not very much to do in town – but it’s worth going now & again for a dinkum meal. We went to the YMCA in Esbekich Gardens on Thursday & had a very nice tea. I first put in about an hour & a half at the Museum looking at the old old old statues dug up in all sorts of places & the older mummies of Kings & Queens & witches & such like of millions of years BC. Old Rameses II is there & his wife I think & Dad & Mum – he is the joker that was after Moses & all the other nips about that time – so they tell you – but he slipped on Moses. They used to have better looking noses in those days than present day Gyppos. ’Spect a chap would have to spend a week in there to get an idea of all the musty old stuff & stories pertaining to the ‘antiquities’. I had a very short walk through.

The day before that I went on a Red Cross trip from here, to Hellouan [Helwan], up to Cairo by tram – thence to Hellouan, about 10 miles by train. We had a swim in some sulphur baths out there & then had tea (very nice bread & butter & eggs & tomatoes) at a place nearby.

Last Sunday eve here we had a church service in the large main hall of the building (we all live – or rather sleep in marquees). The parson happened to be a bit short of pianists so I was promoted to the platform & played for the hymns. It was the best service I’ve been to for awhile. I’ve had a couple of good old goes on the piano for my own amusement – find I’m getting more finger stiff then ever – but I can still remember most parts of 4 or 5 old pieces, tho I can’t play one decently. This piano is the best I’ve struck yet in military possession – it’s actually in tune & had quite good tone.

Well Licko – I wonder how the Junior work is going – it must be just about on now. Hope it’s not too bad. I’ll be hearing soon all about your trip to Port Pirie & whether you won your tennis or not – guess you had a bonzar time, And you’ve been trying to be ‘not too good’ have you. I’ve been the same way lately – ‘weak & anaemic’ – that’s me! Strike me fat – that’s a bit of a joke, don’t you reck? Supposed to be a soldier too! Ah well I’ve been sleeping between sheets in beds for 4 weeks now – so there are compensations.

Most of our chaps were a lot worse than I was & quite a number have died. You may have seen the names of Vic Rule & Phil Prime, two of the old 23/3 – rotten luck. Phil was one of our original 8 you know – tho he was not in the cable scheme. Never heard a word about old Stow till my letters came this week. I wrote some sort of a letter to Uncle Bert the other day – but I can’t altogether make head or tail out of it yet. It will be rotten coming home without Stow.

Think this is enough for one envelope so I’ll shut up shop & go for my quinine.

Hooroo.

Love from Spence

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment

Friday 11 May 1917 – letters from home, 2nd day of Cairo visit

Pen not going well – bad ink ~ 2nd day of Cairo visit – bath house, pyramids, Sphinx, Nile Barrage – ‘I rolled on the grass just so as not to lose the talent’

Dear Mack
Friday 11 May 1917

The query in point is – have I made this ink or haven’t I made it? ie is it ink or isn’t it? You can answer about as well as I can & say at any rate that it’s a mighty poor job so far. Never mind it’s going to improve tho it’s still very rotten! Took 3 tries to make this – now let’s try & see how she goes – I think it’s all right.

You see that precious bit of paper is wasted but I’ll send it to you now to show you the way the pen improved with bit of cleaning and scratching & trying. Before I forget it let me give you a verse of a ‘hymn’ often sung by the chaps round the fire while the billies are boiling – ‘Old soldiers never die, never die, never die, Old soldiers never die, they merely fade away!’ (sung to the tune of ‘Kind words can never die’). Very pathetic isn’t it? Many of the singers don’t look exactly as if it’s true about fading away.

The reason of all this ink, & outburst, is the fact of the arrival this morning of mail! I scored pretty well to – had 4 (out of 5 apparently) from home, no 4 which continued yours & first part of Lic’s has not yet come to light – I guess by the rest that the contents are as above: also I heard from Uncle Arthur, Jeff Hartley, Vera Baker & Donie – pen is not yet going well – I wish I had not lost that indelible pencil. I read about ½ my lot before brek & the rest during the morning while I had time to enjoy & digest them. It helped to pass the time for quite a while. I hope those Registers will come too in a day or so – that Mother has sent. Papers & parcels (?) will come in a few days.

Those photos of Ruth, Lic, Val Drury & Mary Hartley came in good condition & are now packed in my art gallery which is getting just about full: but it seems to stretch every time. This last lot is not at all bad & I’m jolly pleased to have them – tell REK. Besides the people there I have the swing & almond tree behind & in another one part of the garden – roses, cosmos, snap dragons, orange tree, bit of the loquat tree & the gums across the road in the back yard. In that one I see Lic with Peggy – looking sleepy but evidently recovered from the holiday away which she took at Xmas: the other of Lic I said ‘Good Day Lic’ & Lic’s just going to day ‘Good Day’.

Wait till you see my latest – on a camel in front of the old Sphinx & Lance Neville near by also mounted on a camel. I don’t know whether Lance has sent the 2 big ones & 5 PCs on home to you yet: he has sent me one out here. You may guess by our screwed up face that it was pretty warm & sunny – but that’s nothing. It’s not a bad picture of the ‘old chap’ behind – & the biggest pyramid.

You can perhaps see that we are a little distance up in front of the Sphinx – not right against it (see the young Gyppo roosting up in a nitch in his face – shows the size of the thing) & the pyramid is 3 or 400 yards away I guess. It is 470 feet high & some of the others are not so far behind it in size. I think I had better go head while on the job & tell you about the 2nd day in Cairo. I think I told you all about the first day in a previous letter.

photoSphinxApril1917sm
Lance Neville (L) & Spencer (R)

I woke fairly early & got up before Lance & my 2 Tommy room mates & went down below to the bath rooms – paid 3 piastres extra & had a bonzar hot plunge bath: laid back in a bath full of warm water – in soak for about & didn’t consider the time wasted! It was pretty K’right I tell you & I finished up with a cold shower. This was the first morning you know – Friday – & at the YMCA ‘Anzac Hostel where we boarded for the 2 days.

Saturday morning continued

I got upstairs again from my bath & found all the rest at breakfast but we didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all, strange to say. Lance & I got into a gharry & were driven about parts of the town which we had not seen & finished up at the Anglo Egyptian Bank where Lance had some money to get. After that we had some fruit for lunch & about 11am hired a motor car to be driven out to the Pyramids first & on to other places after.

The Mena Pyramids are about 10 miles out & the road is good all the way – with items of interest – places & people both – all along: we passed the house of Lord Kitchener – it looks very nice & good block of land about it laid out in well kept garden, lawn etc & a military guard on the gates. We passed the zoo – went through part of the gardens but hadn’t time to stay there worse luck. People in plenty all along with their camels, donkeys etc loaded up & a good many cattle.

We stopped near ‘Mena House’ – a big sort of hotel I think & on getting out of the car were met by a yelling crowd of boys with donkeys – & guides who wanted to show us round. That was the start of our fun & I don’t think I stopped laughing much till we left ½ hour or more later – except as you’ll see by the sunny-screwed up expression to have my photo taken. I thought afterwards I was a chump not to have been laughing in that too. We ‘imsheed’ [refused] all the Gyps except a guide & a donkey boy each & mounted our steeds (!), first ride ever I’ve had on a donk I think.

It didn’t take long to be jigged up round the hill to the big pyramid shown in our photo, with our guide telling us all about it all the way. Very rough big heavy blocks of stone cut in various sizes – some must be 4’ x 4’ x 6’ and plenty of 4’ cubes & some smaller I dare say at the top though they look big all the way. They are bit uneven so that it would be quite possible to crawl about the wall face. I dare say you’ve seen the photos – as I have – of our early troops here hanging on all over the wall of a pyramid.

From miles back you can see these great tombs – across level country – & they seem big all the time & close at hand: but you go on & on & it gets nearer & bigger all the way until its size is just about monstrous by the time you reach it. Seemed sort of strange & wonderful to be actually looking on these old things of history – but I’d turn away and look again & there they were all right. We were not sparing much time so didn’t go inside tho I’d have liked to go into the big one. Lance didn’t seem to want to stay. So after doing homage to the Sphinx & looking over the mosque or temple of the S close by & in ruins almost underground we remounted our donks & rode back to the motor.

All the time there were ‘dinkum’ fortune tellers, boys with stones, old coins, models of the sphinx & I don’t know who not & what not, at us to buy – buy – buy! I would knock ‘em down to next to nix (you can’t possibly shake then off) & in the end bought nothing: couldn’t be bothered getting a lot of stuff that I may never get home with me. I s’pose I told you that I bought a couple of stones in the temple of Mohammed Ali the previous day: these I have left in my kit bag with my stuff at Moascar & won’t be much loss if I don’t get the again.

Motored back to Cairo & bought some beef rolls & oranges for lunch which we ate while travelling out to the Barrage 20 miles out in the northern direction. The journey out was thro the outskirts of Cairo & on through villages here & there, gardens & cotton & barley fields on either side: no fences anywhere – they must be honest farmers in these eastern countries & only the gardens have high walls around them. One we passed looked a nice place – I believe it belonged before the war to some big Turk who was caught with concealed rifles & ammunition etc & is now having a rest in one of our military ‘prisoners homes’.

The Barrage is a series of 5 or 6 bridges & locks which span & hold up the Nile – must be a mile or more longer: & at present there are separate streams flowing. I s’pose in high flood times they all join up in one wide river. There are arches overhead every 200 or 300 yards sort of gateways – with square towers – old fashioned & a bit narrow (which shows they are not of recent building). I’ve seen picture of them. But there are some tea rooms & bonny lawns & gardens both of which we sampled. I rolled on the lawn just so as not to lose the talent! Nice flowers too – roses, violets, carnations, geraniums & shrubs etc

Barrage on the Nile, 15 miles north of Cairo
4023943
Anzac Hostel, Cairo

Access to ink and paper for letter writing was difficult for WW1 soldiers at the front. They often used pencil or made ink using ink powder as this was easier to transport to the front than liquid ink – see more here